When the Arkansas Times put out its first annual philanthropy issue a couple of decades ago, we focused on big givers: People of great wealth, like Jack Stephens, who were showing other Arkansans how to give. At that time, Stephens’ gift — $5 million — to the Arkansas Arts Center was a sum almost unheard of, particularly in the arts.
Since then, we’ve written about the grantmaking institutions created by the Waltons and the Walmart millionaires that have created colleges, established medical institutes and built a museum and hung art on its walls. Now we’re talking a billion dollars when we’re talking about that arts institution up in Bentonville, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
This issue includes, as always, major gifts gleaned from the 2012 tax returns of non-profit grantmakers and announced gifts. But it has a new focus: On the people who have been helped by the generosity of non-profit social service agencies. Teenagers who’ve been abused. Parents with substance abuse issues. Medically fragile infants in foster care. A young transgender person. A child whose father is in prison. Fellow Arkansans who, thanks to big-hearted, forward-thinking organizations, can better cope with the present and have a future to look forward to.
There are dozens and dozens of social service agencies. Our stories highlight the work of only five. We hope that we will encourage people to give — either of their time or their fortune — to help them and the many others that provide services to people in need.
The Arkansas Times is putting its money where its mouth is by launching a year-long philanthropic endeavor in 2014. Our departments have selected non-profit service agencies they will help, with donations, volunteer hours, free advertising and the like. The production department has chosen the Thea Foundation, created by Paul and Linda Leopoulos to honor their daughter’s memory by promoting better teaching through the arts. The advertising department has chosen The Van, a non-profit that feeds the homeless. Editorial has chosen The Center for Artistic Revolution, which works to secure rights for the LGBT community. Sister publication El Latino has chosen Just Communities of Arkansas, which addresses social justice issues.
Maybe you don’t have $10 million to toss around, like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and three other donors pledged to the Catholic High School. Or the $6 million an anonymous donor gave John Brown University for its nursing program. Social service nonprofits are striving to do great things, usually on small budgets. Those that benefit from public dollars face an uncertain funding future as Congress moves to cut federal spending. All are grateful for contributions, even if they are modest.
The Walton Family Foundation — now approaching $2 billion in assets and ranked 42nd largest funder in the country — continues to invest heavily nationally in charter schooling and other educational projects; in Arkansas, education grants totaled more than $9 million. Northwest Arkansas grants totaled $15 million in 2012. Total “home region” giving from the Walton Family Foundation was $30.3 million.
Big institutions — like Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the Jones Center for Families in Springdale — have been the recipients of major gifts to fund particular initiatives in the past couple of years. Children’s, which went public with a $160 million capital campaign last March, has since raised $41 million in cash and pledges to add to the $100 million it raised during the silent part of the campaign. The money will go to children’s care, research, prevention programs and education. It has received $4 million toward its $6 million goal toward a single facility, its Children’s House, which serves children suspected to have been victims of abuse. The Jones Trust, which in 2012 launched a campaign to endow the Jones Center with gifts of $10 million from both the Walton Family Foundation and the Care Foundation, this year won a pledge from Tyson Foods to give $1 million over the next five years to the center.